Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is the web killing culture?

Andrew Keen is over this way flogging his book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy." Here as everywhere he is stirring up a furious reaction.

Keen was himself an early enthusiast of the internet who has done a one-eighty. His target: the entirety of Web 2.0 culture of user-generated content. MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Wikipedia, Amazon reviews, spam, etc. He longs for the days of the professional gatekeepers -- the editors, publishers, librarians, reviewers, and critics who sifted through the infinite sea of content and gave us what they deemed significant.

To the angry armies of the blogosphere, Keen is "a mastodon growling against the warm wind of change."

I'm certainly not qualified to comment on the controversy. I've never been to MySpace or Facebook, never entered a chat room, seldom read a blog other than my own. I find Wikipedia useful, and as generally reliable as any library reference book. I do not trust Amazon reviews, although I sometimes find them fun to read. I detest spam.

I love the access I have here on my Irish hillside to almost any artifact of human culture, and my wife happily spends an hour each day reading the New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Salon, TruthOut, and heaven knows what else. I blog, but then I have always kept a journal, so blogging is no great change in my life, and has the advantage that I learn from all the smart -- and wonderfully courteous -- folks who read and comment on what I write. In the meantime, I read as many real books as ever, and the local bookstore shows no diminution of choices. The Irish Times is as fine a newspaper as it ever was. And I'll keep writing books, as long as someone is kind enough to publish them.

The internet isn't killing my culture, and I don't see any effect on the economy here in Ireland, which is internet driven and booming. Sure, some traditional businesses will fall by the wayside, but such has been the case with every new technology. To each his own, I say. Let a thousand web sites bloom. Bring on Web 3.0, whatever that will be. I will adopt what I find useful, and try to ignore the rest. Better too many choices than too few.